Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Review: Avengers Vs X-Men: Round 6

A VS X Round 6 By Aaron / Bendis / Brubaker / Fraction / Hickman / Coipel / Morales 

At its exact halfway point Avengers Vs X-Men finally appears to be springing into life. That's not to say that the opening handful of issues were particularly bad, more that they seemed affected by the same malaise that afflicts most of Marvel's recent attempts at 'epic' event storytelling. The story was a little too disjointed to be entirely satisfying, and despite the large scope I had my doubts about the lasting impact that it would have. Those doubts have not been entirely banished, but this issue combined with the previous issue's cliffhanger have done a lot to restore my faith in what had been a vaguely flagging series.

Jonathan Hickman scripts this issue and does a solid job. His dialogue is among the best that the series have seen and the pacing, while not perfect, is fine. From the off there is a real sense of scale and impact here, put across in a more natural way than the rather forced nature of some of the earlier aspects of the plot that hinted at such things. Cyclops' conversation with Xavier feels like a real tipping point for the character and, to borrow an overused phrase from Marvel's marketing department, it seems as though nothing will ever be the same. Cyclops was once a character most frequently described as dull - it seems unlikely that such criticisms will hold much weight after this series has reached completion. It is true of course that there have been past attempts at granting the character a more 'edgy' nature - most notably by the pen of Grant Morrison - but not have felt as final as this one. Cyclops' villainous turn feels both weighty and entirely natural, and really works for the character.

As his character takes centre stage, it feels inevitable that the rest of the cast will be shunted to one side. This does give this issue less variety than what is typically on show in an event title, but it is not necessarily a bad thing and gives the plot a more cohesive feel. It is not all the Cyclops show though, and although Hope's characterisation is still failing to grab me I was pleased to see Beast given something significant to do, even if it seemed slightly gratuitous to the issue's wider plot.

Oliver Coipel takes over on art duties from John Romita Jr, and puts in some impressive work, ably assisted by Mark Morales on inks. Coipel's style lacks the idiosyncrasies that characterise Romita's style, and while his work is a little plainer and more lacking in atmosphere, it is polished and consistent throughout. Some of his storytelling is a little patchy but on the whole this is a great looking comic book.

Despite the encouraging steps that seem to have been taken with this issue, I can almost feel the writer's hands looming over the reset button. Cyclops' sweeping promised changes to the world are exciting and genuinely interesting, but feel temporary at best. His threat at the issue's close also feels a little empty, although it should make for an action packed second half to the series. In many ways this is the issue that I have been hoping for since day one, but I am still not fully convinced that it will be enough to make for the classic story that this series should have produced.


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